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New rumors of a 7-inch iPad surface

by Eric Benderoff

A new rumor about a 7-inch iPod has surfaced, but consider the source. Also in today's App Industry Roundup, we look at mobile messaging for sports and note a new trend: people who are comparing Android phones.

New iPad rumors are funny

It remains to be seen whether Apple (AAPL) is developing a 7-inch iPad to compete with new Android-based tablets (such as the Samsung Galaxy tab(KOSPI)) . It has been rumored since early August that a 7-inch iPad (aka, the Big Touch) is in the works. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't. All we know for sure is that the current version of the iPad won't be the same as the next model.

The influential Om Malik weighed in on the debate, noting that the increasing competition is coming faster for the iPad than it ever did for Apple's first trend-setting hand-held gadget, the iPod. "The emergence of Android has started to take away some of the growth opportunities from Apple, as it has brought more options for consumers," he writes. "Competition has come early for the iPad."

Of course he is correct; the competition is not going to let Apple get 80 percent share of a new market again. Malik bases his 7-inch iPad post on a report from Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar, who wrote that a new iPad will have front-and-rear facing cameras to use Apple's FaceTime video conference app.

And therein lies the problem, as the entertaining John Gruber of Daring Fireball writes in a different post dedicated to Ashok Kumar's dubious track record of Apple predictions. Among a half-dozen predictions that didn't go quite right, there is this:

"This is the same Ashok Kumar who in July 2007, one month after the iPhone went on sale, declared it a dud'In the Harry Potter books, a squib is the offspring of a witch and wizard that lacks the ability to produce magic,' Kumar explained. 'In the technology world, the iPhone is a product from Apple teamed with the wireless network of AT&T that lacks the ability to produce magical business growth.' Betting on a 7-inch iPad based on a Kumar 'research note' is pretty much like betting on the time of day based on a stopped clock," Gruber writes.

Mobile messaging for sports

Mobile devices have increasingly, for better or worse, become our lifelines. We are constantly checking our smartphones for messages, using them to catch up on breaking news and showing them off to our friends and co-workers (see last item). But they have become so vital that we even use them to monitor the live sporting events we attend. It isn't enough to watch the game anymore; you need to use your phone to get the highlights and secondary camera angles.

Such reliance has lead to big mobile marketing opportunities, particularly for sports teams. This New York Times advertising piece looks at a broad package of mobile messaging (which will eventually include customized apps) to reach sports fans. The story focused on what the Pittsburgh Penguins were doing to create mobile products that fans would engage with, including text message alerts, player news and, when the puck drops for the upcoming season, a video system that "allows those in the arena to simultaneously watch the game from six angles. They also will be able to see game statistics, roster and other information, and view instant replay, accompanied by in-phone ads from the sponsor, Verizon — but only in the arena."

Mobile is the “the most intimate device we can use” to engage with fans, said Jack Philbin, president of Chicago's Vibes Media, which is working with the Penguins to boost mobile engagement with fans. The Pens Mobile Club has 72,440 members, up from 14,000 when the hockey team started the mobile promotion.

Sprint's Evo in the wild

At a Chicago tech event Monday night, I saw something I hadn't seen before: Two execs comparing their HTC Evos. I'm on record as loving the Evo and it was refreshing to see these two folks (one a top dog at Google (GOOG)) checking out the features and apps each had downloaded to a phone they were both raving about (except for the battery life). Last year, you'd only see that with iPhones. Things can change pretty quickly in the mobile world.